Benjamin Law is one of the hardest-working men in media. From creating the popular series The Family Law based on his memoir to becoming a star of Australian Survivor and working as an acclaimed journalist, his list of talents is impressive. Now, the 40-year-old has co-created another TV project, and this time, it’s on one of the biggest streamers in the world. Netflix.
The new show, Wellmania — which lands on the service on March 29 — follows food writer and human tornado Liv (Celeste Barber), who has a major health crisis and is forced to rethink her ‘live fast, die young’ attitude. And while you may think it’s a jab at the health industry, Law says it is more about “true wellness” than dieting, crystals and enemas.
“The way Celeste is approaching the role is with non-judgmental curiosity,” Law told Mediaweek’s head of entertainment, Anita Anabel, during an interview on The Entertainment Hotline podcast.
“[There’s] a little bit of scepticism but a little bit of desperation as well, which I think is the way that most of us approach the wellness industry.”
According to Law, “a very different version of the show” could have been made given that Barber is “everyone’s favourite Mr Bean as a woman on Instagram”.
“That’s why we adore her. She’s so physical and clown-like that we could have had a lot of low-hanging fruit, kind of dragging the wellness industry or dumping sh-t on it.
“But when you think about wellness, we’re all part of this industry, and we wanted to approach it in a way that was non-judgmental while simultaneously capturing the batsh-ttery of it all.”
Wellmania explores the idea that “wellness” isn’t just about being physically healthy
Without giving too much away, Law said that by the end of the series, you get the feeling that Liv has “ticked all the boxes”.
“She’s in America, she’s fit, she knows how to take care of her body supposedly,” he said. “But is that true wellness? Has she repaired the fractured kind of relationship she has with her family? Has she actually connected with her friends and made sure that she’s there for them?
“I think what we were trying to explore is wellness or the idea of wellness in 2023 can be often quite shallow whereas true wellness is really messy and complicated. What does it mean to be a healthy well person is actually a little bit more than the crystals and the yoga mats and the diet and the juices. I think Liv discovers that in a really hard way because stuff that she hasn’t taken care of in her past is catching up to her quickly.”
The series also talks about “running away from your problems”, and for Barber’s Liv, she literally flew across the world to escape from her life.
“You get this backstory that she flew and fled to the United States because she was basically rejected in her hometown,” Law said of the character. “And I think a lot of us relate to that. You know, when you’re overlooked in an industry or you’re overlooked in a country, you’re like, I have to go somewhere else. When she returns home, she’s like, ‘screw this, America is a place that celebrates me. So why why would I want to be here?'”
Benjamin Law reveals how he juggles so many “hats”
A self-confessed “slashy”, Law revealed how he manages a life full of differing opportunities.
“Often very unsuccessfully,” he admitted. “It’s not coming from false modesty. It is actually difficult. Sometimes. I mean, I’ve got I’ve got a few different problems that led to this very strange career, because I think sometimes people think, ‘oh, you’ve done all this stuff. What an amazing plan, you must have had’ and I’m like, ‘no, all of this has come out of lack of planning.
“But, I think the other thing is…I love stories. Whether they come in the form of a drama, or a comedy or amazing work of journalism or a podcast or a play or a TV show. And so I’m interested in those forms of storytelling. So, maybe it makes sense for me that I’m interested in trying to figure out whether I could do it as well. But I do think one of the things that I love about being such a slashy across across different jobs and forms is, I do think they all inform each other.”
Wellmania lands on Netflix on March 29.
Listen to The Entertainment Hotline with Anita Anabel here.